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Our Newsletter

February 2005


Tricks Of The Trade



If a rider is out of balance either vertically or laterally, his muscles have to work harder to hold him in that position, creating stiffness and reducing his feel. His horse is forced to compensate also, creating tension in his body. Therefore, it is critical to address position and balance, both vertically and laterally, in all riders, regardless of their ability level. Make sure to look for ear-shoulder-hip-heel alignment for vertical or longitudinal balance and observe your students from front and back, standing still and in motion, to assess lateral balance and position.

Julie Suwyn

CHA Standard and IRD Clinic Instructor

Hastings, MI

Have a horse that constantly puts his tongue over the bit? You can buy, for a nominal amount, a small rubber device called a tongue port, that attaches to the middle of the bit and lays a flat oval port over the horse’s tongue above the bit, which prevents him from getting his tongue over. Horses become addicted to this behavior because it causes an endorphin release in the brain and gives a tranquilizing effect. A horse with the tongue over the bit is very difficult to control and therefore, in addition to being hard on the horse, it is also a safety issue.

Julie Goodnight




There are two types of behaviors in horses: instinctive and learned. Instinctive behaviors are the ones that horses are born knowing or develop shortly after birth. All of the instinctive behaviors of horses fall into these seven categories:

  1. Flight
  2. Reproductive
  3. Eliminative
  4. Ingestive
  5. Combative
  6. Gregarious
  7. Investigative

Learned behaviors in horses are either self-taught or trained by another horse or human. We train horses to increase their value and usefulness. It is helpful when trying to train a horse to a specific behavior, such as come when I call you, to use what they do naturally to train them. In this case, they naturally love to eat, so if you give food every time you call them, they will learn to come quickly. Knowing what motivates horses is important for training. Basically, horses are motivated by safety and comfort. Therefore making the horse feel safe and allowing him to rest are major motivating factors for horses. Hence, the highly effective technique of leaving the horse alone when he does the right thing, works really well for training the horse to a new learned behavior.

Julie Goodnight

With Dr. Jim Hierd, Colorado State University, Director of Equine Science



Eliminative Behavior- the instinctive behavior of selecting a place to urinate or defecate; if given enough room, a horse will usually walk some distance to an eliminative spot. Horses in the wild form “stud piles,” large mounds of manure that mark territory and signal an individual horse’s presence.

Julie Goodnight